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Daily Leadership Thought #150 – Manager Your Anger; Count to Ten

June 9, 2011

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How you manage your anger will have a significant impact on your relationships and your life.

When I was a young boy, my mother used to say to me when I was angry (which wasn’t very often) to “count to ten before saying or doing anything.”  There mere fact of pausing before you act or say something out of spite is quite a useful tool.  Sometimes we just want to respond or act immediately without thinking first.  Our first instinct is to fight back or lash out.  Unless you are in physical danger this is often a bad idea.

Taking time to step back and reflect can go a long way.  Cooler heads can and should prevail.   If you are in a leadership role, it’s important to be known as someone who has control of his/her emotions.  People expect you to have a stable and unflappable persona.  At a minimum, you are supposed to be the mature adult in the room.  In your personal life you will avoid many relationship landmines by not always “taking the bait” when others trigger you emotionally.  It’s best to keep a sense of perspective and not turn everything into a big deal or intense conversation.  Sometimes people just slip up or they are tired and not thinking and need to be cut some slack.

While email and texting certainly have many communication positives, they are a poor way to deal with conflict.  In fact, one could easily argue they create more conflict.   You can’t take the personal out of interpersonal communication.  There is something about having to look another person in the eye and read their body language or at least hear their voice which makes you think about what you are saying and how you are coming across.   When you can just hit the send button and move on to other things without immediate feedback or consequences, you are prone to write things you may later regret.

Several years ago, a mentor of mine told me to practice the 24-hour role with email.  When you want to send something out of anger or frustration, sleep on it and think it through first.  Things often look different in the morning, and you have had some time to cool down.  I try but don’t always follow this rule and when I don’t, I usually regret it.

Anger is a basic human emotion that we all experience on a semi-regular basis.  What is important is how you manage it when it happens.  Before saying what immediately comes to your mind (or worse), pause, take a deep breath, count to ten and think before you talk (or email).  Life is hard enough without making it unnecessarily more difficult for other people including yourself.   No matter how long you live, it is still wise to heed the advice of your mother.